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…but love cannot “win”

Love never failing, however is different than love “winning.” Indeed, I do not think love – real, actual love and not something else masquerading as love – can “win”. Love, at its very nature is uncompetitive, and wants what is best for the other person.

Love invites. It creates an atmosphere where the one loved can, if they so choose, have the freedom to figure out and express who it is exactly that God originally intended them to be. But it is the choice of the loved one to enter into that space; it is not up to the lover whether or not the loved one enters. This is what is scary about love – developing and opening up that space for another without the guarantee that the loved one will enter, or respond the way the lover expects or hopes.

Saying love “wins” is like saying ice cream makes an excellent public speaker – the two don’t even go together and are nonsensical when put together.

Love cannot “win”. Love, real love, however, never fails. It is always there, creating that inviting space, no matter what.

This means love looks different in every relationship. For a loving mother, loving her son means giving him the space and opportunities to figure out his strengths, passions, and desires without her forcing him to become the man she envisioned. For a friend, it means listening and go on adventures, helping that loved friend process who God created them to be. Sometimes it means telling a friend or a sibling or a teenage child that the way they are living is not helpful for becoming the person they were created to be. Love can be hard. Loving often is, actually. But, it has to be to be life-giving, life-calling.

And real love, no matter what, is always willing to create space for the loved one. A space where the love one – and hopefully the lover too – can continue in the process of becoming all that God created them to be. A space where there is room to heal from a deep wound, a space where laughter and tears and joy and adventure are welcomed. A space where risks are invited.

A space such as that will never fail a person. It will change the loved and the lover, but it will never fail.

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Love Never Fails – no, for real!

I was underlining verses in Bibles today, getting them ready to hand out to my youth group high schoolers, and as I underlined 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the line, “love never fails” jumped out at me.
Sure, I’ve read that verse I don’t know how many times over the lifetime of being a believer, but somehow, before, it was always just words. Never a promise. Never a “this is how it should and can be.” Maybe because I’ve been thinking recently about love and relationships and how much God likes to heal them or maybe it was just something I needed to focus on, but “love never fails” hit me hard today.
I mean, if that is true, if we really believed and acted on that, if we didn’t give up on relationships when they were hard and painful knowing that, in the long run, we would pass through this hard time, than divorce wouldn’t ever really need to be a thing, would it? If love never fails, than all parents are forgiven for just being human and messing up. All kids are forgiven for being frustrated with parents. All workers work to forgive grumpy or unreasonable bosses.
If love never fails, than love, true love, changes the world. Unreasonable bosses are, over time and with a lot of prayer, tears and patience from their workers, changed. Children begin to understand that their parents are just broken adults. Adults release their children to be whoever God created them to be, and not the person the parent thinks they should be. Parents see their kids as imperfect humans too. They understand – a bit more – each other, and forgiveness happens.

If love really never fails, the world is changed. Not quickly, not easily, but through following the example of the One who loved best. Through blood, sweat, tears and lying down of personal rights. Through meeting people where they are, and not where we think they should be. Through prayer, so much prayer and faith that God hasn’t given up on them yet (Phil 1:6).

Love never fails, guys! Isn’t that so incredibly encouraging!!!!!

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Clamoring words

I have been overwhelmed recently – by words. Words to be written, words to be said, words spoken around me to be ignored, words spoken to me that must be remembered, words to be pondered, words to wound and words to heal. There is so much clatter and clamor that I have not been able to put down my own words. I have not been able to process. I am in desperate need of silence. Of Harry Potter’s Pensieve, or memory thing that holds your memories for you. I cannot form sentences to write papers, or blogs, or journal entries.

I need stillness. I need silence. I need it around me, but mostly I need it in me.

There have been so many words this semester, talking about God, about who I think (or should think) how He works. And the more I learn, the more arrogant about my knowledge I become, the louder the clamor of knowledge and words becomes, the less I hear.

This is something I need to work on – being still.

I don’t know what this has to do with Easter. Probably not much, except that because of what Jesus did for me on this day we celebrate, I have the gift of being still at times and simply basking in His presence. This is a gift I need to participate more often than I do.

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Peace

There are days when I’m like,”God, what do you have for me today?”

And there’s silence.

And yet, today anyway, there’s also a deep, gentle peace. Peace like a momma holding her two-year old sleeping baby girl.  Peace like a man holding his woman’s hand and just watching the sunset.  Peace like  quiet.  Peace like flowers silently unfurling.  Peace like a hug, or cookies and milk, or a beloved stuffed animal (or, in my case, pillow) snuggled tight.

Peace.

Be still. Breathe it in.  Hold it close.  Rest.

God is good, all the time.

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Mary, did you know?

Christmas music, the perfect soundtrack to make everyone feel guilty for not loving their family and friends better, and so encourages them to go buy more stuff to make up for the lack of love. Or reminds everyone how the best way to show love is through giving stuff. Either way, it surrounds us right now.   It has taken over the airways.
Not the point. The point is that because I am surrounded by Christmas music, I was inspired to write the next bit:

I was somewhere recently and heard the new, gorgeous version of Mary Did You Know.   And I got to thinking that while, yes, Mary DID know there was something special about her son; that she DID know he was Messiah, she hadn’t a clue what that meant! She probably had no idea that the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the dead would live again, that he would calm the storm with his hand, the lame would walk again, that He would walk on water, etcetera.

Because, really, except for a couple old people hanging out in the temple, and one cousin who had only been born a few months before, no one knew.

But that’s true of every person born, isn’t it? I mean sure, Jesus is the Savior of the world, but to some extent, what was true of Him is true of every child born ever. Mother Theresa’s mother had no idea who her daughter would be. Neither did Martin Luther King Jr.’s father. No mother knows who her child will ever become. That’s true of all of us. We never know whose presence we are in. Even if that person is an adult, we have no idea who they will become by the time they are done on Earth.
So, this year as you get together with family – pleasant or not – keep in mind that you really have no idea what the people you interact with are capable of. You have no idea whose presence you are in. Your aunt who always has to bring the rolls and burns them every year might be the woman who one day knows exactly what to say to you when you need it most. Or might be the woman who discovers a cure for ADD or, well, who knows. Same goes for your Father-in-law, or your chatty cousin or nerdy brother. Each of us has our purpose and role to play, whether or not we realize it.
Remember this season, that you have no idea whose presence you are really in. It might give you a little more grace with your sister who thinks God loves her better than anyone else.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Sabbath

I’m done.   Every paper is turned in, every test taken.  It’s good. I felt such a crazy amount of freedom yesterday as I drove away from campus knowing I probably won’t be there again for a good six weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I love seminary and my classes, but breaks are needed and necessary!

Which is probably why God modeled Sabbath for us, and then decreed that we should do the same. Something I found interesting in my New Testament class this past semester is that often, Jewish holidays were treated as extra Sabbaths in their week. I love that idea. I love the idea of holidays being Sabbath.

Which is so foreign of an idea in Western Culture. We have presents to wrap, places to be, meals to prepare (or run to the store and buy and then arrange nicely), family to enjoy (or attempt to please), and church to attend (at the very least). It’s all very hectic.

But what if it wasn’t? What if, for Christmas this year, we took some time out and just enjoyed the tree, the people, the food, the presents. What if we just took time to be still? Or, since abiding and Sabbath are NOT just about being still, what in, in the midst of the chaos, we focused on God being our source of peace. He is supposed to be, after all.

It is possible, in the middle of garnishing the ham, to take a second and quietly give thanks (and I do mean a second), or in the middle of the presents, to simply soak in the joyous expression of a loved one. Sabbath and abiding, I have discovered over this semester, are usually found in the half-seconds, in reminding ourselves Who really Is the reason for all of this.

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Sensei God

Hey Guys!  Meagan’s back with her brilliant thoughts! 

While my husband and I were on a backpacking vacation this summer, I poured out my heart to God, sitting in our tent. I have poured out my heart many times over the past two years, as we have faced physical, emotional and spiritual struggles like none I’ve never experienced. While I was in that tent, ferociously scrawling out prayers and thoughts into my tiny travel journal, a word came to me: Abide. It was unmistakably a word from God. Abide. What does that mean anyway? It means stay. To stay within, and partake fully in something. God told me to abide in him.

Specifically, he wanted me not to be looking for anything while I abide. Soley to know him better by staying in his presence. Over the past years I have been constantly seeking answers about my future, my past, how to deal with a lot of pain. I look for purpose, I ask for direction, I pray for all kinds of temporal blessings. All of those aren’t bad things until they become a laundry list of requests as if we are wishing to a Genie. God is not a wish-granting factory. He is a God of relationship.

So, I spent the rest of vacation pondering that word, abide, and how I might proceed to abide when I returned home. I began reading a daily devotional that is specific to experiencing the presence of God and how he sees, guides and nurtures us. Through scripture, the short daily readings have expanded my understanding of his character, and taught me to trust him with my life. That’s a HUGE step for a control freak.

Though, when you think about it, aren’t we all control freaks? We make every decision based on our belief that we can command the outcome of every part our lives. If something goes wrong in our master plan, we look for where we screwed up our system, or blame someone else for screwing it up.

In abiding, I’ve been trying to learn how to let go of that habit, and let God handle my outcomes. But like a classic control freak, I got wrapped up in the habit of “doing my devotional” rather than practicing the Presence of God. I went back to my usual daily treadmill, kind of half-praying to him when I “got the chance”  instead of truly listening to him. I let myself be distracted by every other thing.

This happens when we start feeling confident and good, doesn’t it? We forget to hang out with God. Or we remember, but put it off. Why IS that? Why do we forget to commune? We start relying on our own perceived strength and promptly forget he was the one who picked us up off the floor in the first place. Talk about lack of gratitude. Talk about abandoning and ignoring a friend that has helped, you, or rather, saved your ass.

When my life started getting disorganized and overwhelming again, I realized the auto-pilot habit I got into. I had a one-on-one date with God to just hang out. I need that radio-muted, inner-racket-muted, TV-off, chores-left, quiet, in order to hear him and really communicate — two ways. He doesn’t yell over my own noise. He waits for me to pursue him and gently reminds me that he is pursuing me.

This season, where I’m waiting and kind of wrestling with him to stop trying to run after some life that I find “meaningful,” is the abiding season. In a desert, there’s nothing else to do but talk to God. And drink lots of water.

The purpose is not to do anything but know him. Not to halfway know and then ask for something, but to really KNOW. Not to try to get answers, but just be still and know. Know his character, know what he expects from me, let him teach me His ways (which are so far from my ways, it’s laughable) and take those ways as my own. Sort of like a Sensei and his student.

There’s a scene in the movie Kill Bill, where Kung Fu Master Pai Mei teaches his student, Beatrix Kiddo, to punch a hole through a 4-inch thick wall. He says to her, “Now that your arm belongs to me, I want it strong.” She spends the next several months with a broken, swollen hand, learning to master the wall.

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In the same way, our body, mind and soul belong to God. Like any good teacher, God shows us our weaknesses, through our own flailing attempts control our lives. When we end up in a puddle on the floor, he uses our utter dependence upon his mercy to rebuild us with divine strength. Strength that actually lasts. Strength that can beat any foe.

This process is going to take a LOOOOONG time for me. God has a lot to teach me, and is very patient. Meanwhile, I’m very flawed, very undisciplined, and incredibly impatient. I am going to have to hit a wall with my fist until I break my hand.

I  challenge you to learn what it means to abide in God and learn his ways as your Sensei.

I challenge you to discipline your mind so that you can give your full attention to the ultimate teacher.

More than anything, I challenge you to fully trust him. Every morning, choose to let go of your little dominion of control, and let him handle your worries, fears, and doubts. Let him show you the better way, through his eternal view.

I’ve been practicing these three moves, and I can tell you from experience, it’s been the most rewarding learning in my life. If God can redeem a disaster case like mine, he’ll do it for you, too. He’s made that promise in his infallible Word — Check out Genesis 28:15, Hebrews 11:6-7 and Psalm 37:4-7.

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